OCTOBER 1, 2010
It's really stupid to make a movie about current technology, because it will be outdated by the time it's released even under the best circumstances. So for Chain Letter, it's double or even triply stupid, because it's been on the shelf for 3 years, and the whole movie hinges on people whose addiction to the "newest technology" gets them killed. You know, things like Myspace.
It's also sort of funny that the movie is opening against The Social Network, which details the creation of Facebook, which isn't even mentioned in this movie. Nor are iPhones or Twitter, or any other number of actual new technologies that should be playing a part in Chain Letter's "hip" world. Instead, we have a movie that takes place in the "multimedia capital of the world" or something like that (not a joke) but few people even have smartphones. Seriously; there's a scene where a girl and her brother fight over using his computer because hers froze while she was sending an email - this is something one would do from their phone nowadays.
But even without all of the laughably out of date technologies, the movie would still be a pile of horseshit. Screenwriters Michael J. Pagan (who also appears in the film, and there's a joke in there that you'd need to see the movie to appreciate) and Deon Taylor (who also directed) have put together one of the most insultingly stupid scripts in recent memory, with several worthless characters (Betsy Russell, why are you in this movie?), gaping plot holes (it's an awesome kill, but why would people with a two car garage park both of their cars outside and backed into their driveway?), and people acting creepy for no reason just to throw us off track, even though there's no real twist to the movie at all (which I actually sort of like, it's just that the movie still sucks). You also have scenes like Keith David inspecting chains in random farms to see if they match the one found at a crime scene. I never realized chains were sort of like fingerprints or snowflakes and that no two were the same.
And the dialogue! No one expects Mamet or even Sorkin, but yikes. Take this more or less verbatim exchange between Charles Fleischer and David:
Fleischer: These people, they hate technology!
David: But why? What about all of the good things technology has given us?
Fleischer: Doesn't matter - they hate it!
This is pretty much all we get for a motive for Chain Man, too. There's supposedly a cult of these anti-technology folks, but if so I must have slept through their scenes. And the IMDb had to have missed them too, because their cast list is incredibly accurate, including such memorable characters as "Punk hair w / trench coat stares down Nikki Reed", as well as a character played by Bai Ling, who does not appear in the film. Now, I will assume that over the 3 years from the time the film was shot to when it was finally released, that it had some editing and tinkering to try to save it, and I think we can all agree that removing Bai Ling from something is always a good idea, but it's not enough to give the film a pass, because we still have the atrocious dialogue and laughably clueless approach to the technology the film is built around. Christ, at one point, the Cody Kasch character is playing World of Warcraft and is mocking his PvP opponent, claiming he is "stealing all of your experience points". Um, no. That's not how it works.
It also commits the cardinal sin of slasher movies by showing the best kill in the first few minutes (though to be fair, we don't see the outcome until the film's ending - it's sort of a wraparound). As I mentioned, the kill only works if you take it with some massive grains of salt, but it's still pretty sweet - Chain Man wraps up a girl with duct-tape and then chains one leg to her mom's car and the other to her dad's. So when the two leave for work simultaneously (OK), they will pull her apart when they start to drive in opposite directions. Sweet! Even with all the idiotic contrivances behind it, it's still a cheer-worthy visual. But then the other 80 or so minutes occur and ruin all the good will it earned. Plus it's actually the ending of the movie, which is pretty anticlimactic.
And yet this thing landed on over 400 screens. So for those keeping score, Trick R Treat and Inside went straight to video, but this movie actually had a wider opening than Let The Right One In or Midnight Meat Train. Thankfully, the gamble didn't work - my theater had 6 other people, 4 of whom walked out two scenes in, leading me to assume that they were just killing time before Hatchet II, which started ten minutes later. And I had bought a ticket for Hatchet II myself, so its possible that there were only two tickets sold for this Friday night screening of a "new" movie. I know I'm always saying to support original and independent horror, and technically this was the most qualified of the four horror films opening this weekend (Case 39 - studio, Let Me In - remake, and even Hatchet II - sequel), but ultimately, we should just be supporting GOOD horror movies, and Chain Letter is about the furthest thing from one.
What say you?